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January 31, 2018 3:24 pm

French Jews Criticize Media Indifference to Assault on 8-Year-Old Jewish Boy in Country’s Latest Antisemitic Outrage

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A fire burns in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles during pro-Palestinian riots in July 2014. Photo: Reuters / Benoit Tessier.

One of France’s leading Jewish figures has sharply criticized what he described as media indifference to the news on Wednesday of the country’s latest antisemitic outrage, in which an 8-year-old kippah-wearing Jewish boy was subjected to a brutal attack.

The incident took place on Monday in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, where a significant Jewish community lives among a much larger population of Muslims from the Middle East and Africa. The suspects — believed to be around age 15 — were hidden behind garbage cans and attacked the boy as he walked alone to a tutoring class. They pushed the boy to the ground and punched and kicked him, running off without stealing any of the items he was carrying. The boy is reported to be physically stable, but suffering from shock.

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the assault as an “attack on the Republic,” while Interior Minister Gérard Collomb condemned what he called a “cowardly aggression.” But the reporting of the incident in the media led one influential Jewish figure to wonder aloud on Wednesday whether French journalists had genuinely understood the gravity of the attack.

“This morning, I turned on my radio and I heard the following comment: ‘The Jewish community is in shock,'” Marc Knobel — a historian and the director of studies at CRIF, the French-Jewish communal body — wrote on the CRIF website.

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“Does it concern only the Jewish community when an 8-year-old child is assaulted because he wears a kippah and is a Jew?” Knobel asked pointedly.

“Why should only Jews react and feel concerned by such an assault?” Knobel continued. “Should the nation be insensitive when children are assaulted — black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, other?”

Knobel concluded by cautioning France not to think that antisemitism is only “against Jews, that racism is only against black people, that homophobia is only against the gay community, that sexism is only against women.”

“Antisemitism threatens the Republic,” he said.

Only ten days ago, CRIF issued a list of antisemitic incidents in January alone — including another incident in Sarcelles in which a 15-year-old Jewish girl was slashed in the face with a knife.

Other incidents listed by CRIF as part of its “Zero Tolerance” call included the vandalism and subsequent arson of two stores selling kosher products in a mall in the Paris suburb of Créteil and an anonymous threatening letter sent to a synagogue in Saint-Maur, another suburb of the French capital. The organization said these incidents were “evidence that a worrying and dangerous climate is settling over our country, creating a real concern for the Jewish community.”

The charge that both the media and law enforcement ignore or play down the antisemitic motives behind attacks on Jews has been a familiar one in France over the last year. The torture and murder in April 2017 by an antisemitic assailant of Sarah Halimi, a 63-year-old Jewish pensioner in Paris who lived alone, was largely ignored by the media for several weeks as the French presidential elections took place. Meanwhile, the French authorities did not determine that Halimi’s killing was an antisemitic hate crime until September.

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